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Monday, April 23, 2007

Comparing Berezovsky and Trotsky

Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian journalist and a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute Andrei Piontovsky offers the following analysis in Insight magazine which suggests that when Putin condemns Berezovsky he is really condemning himself, implying they are father and son, and comparing Berezovsky with Trotsky:

The former Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has told the British daily, The Guardian, he is plotting the violent overthrow of President Vladimir Putin from his base in Britain after forging close contacts with members of Russia's ruling elite.

In his April 13th interview, the multi-millionaire claimed he was already bankrolling people close to the president who are conspiring to mount a palace coup.

"We need to use force to change the regime," he said. "It isn't possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure." Asked if he was effectively fomenting a revolution, Berezovsky said: "You are absolutely correct."

In the 1930s, Leon Trotsky repeated, in numerous interviews for Western newspapers and radio stations, that he had a vast number of supporters in the Soviet Union, including military personnel, secret policemen and members of the top echelons of the administrative apparatus of the Communist Party. These, he claimed, included many who had earlier fought against Trotskyism. “Every day I am directly and indirectly in contact with very many people who are persuaded of the necessity of replacing the Stalin regime and that it is impossible to remove Stalin from power by means of intra-party democracy,” one of the seminal leaders of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution confided.

It is difficult to judge how far these claims were based on delusion and how far they were based on cynical political and psychological calculations.

To be sure, many top dogs in the Russian Communist establishment at the time were giving vent to their disgruntlement in private. But most probably Trotsky harbored few illusions regarding the Soviet establishment. On the other hand, he was fully acquainted with the paranoid psychology of the man he so recklessly underestimated when describing him as the “most outstanding mediocrity in our Party”—Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Having deliberately set up the entire Soviet “elite” (military personnel, secret policemen, etc.), Trotsky supposed that the repressions unleashed by the paranoid dictator would be so monstrous in scope that they would detonate an explosion of outrage which would then sweep away Stalin’s regime.

The first part of Trotsky’s prognosis proved accurate. But the follow-up forcible overthrow of Stalin somehow did not follow. In the show trials, the elite corroborated in great and imaginative detail everything Comrade Trotsky had trumpeted urbi et orbi and then and with a sense of having performed their duty to the Party, they climbed the scaffold with cries of “Long live Comrade Stalin!” The final chord in this heroic symphony was the blow struck with an alpenstock by Ramón Mercader, Hero of the Soviet Union, at Trotsky’s head.

Seventy years have passed and, as in Hegel’s bad infinity, we hear once more, only now from London, those same words: “Military, business circles and the secret services, an enormous number of supporters, for the past year and a half we have been preparing a forcible seizure of power.”

What are we to make of Berezovsky’s megalomaniacal stream of consciousness? This time there is no possibility of delusion. Trotsky created the Red Army, not just several financial pyramids like Berezovsky. Trotsky did have some loyal supporters. Berezovsky has none and never could have and he knows it.

So what does that leave? If our supreme leader was able to believe on February 23, 2004 in a conspiracy to seize power, and possibly also assassinate our Most August Ruler, and that the author of this plan was the exceedingly mild-mannered Mikhail Kasianov, why should he not believe in a ramified conspiracy among these elites, orchestrated from abroad by the fugitive oligarch behind whom there stand, needless to say, those familiar “traditional, powerful and dangerous enemies of Russia who dream of weakening and dismembering her”?

The Kremlin provocateurs and propagandists do not have to invent anything in order to scare either their boss or society. Boris Berezovsky obligingly offers them all the arguments they could possibly need, once more dazzlingly confirming my characterization of him on the pages of Grani on his 60th birthday: “For the past six years, Berezovsky has been acting as an extremely valuable foreign agent for Putin by trying to ‘head,’ and thereby discrediting, any opposition to Putin’s regime.”

Finally, let us note a strange aberration in the political mindset of such exceptional people as Trotsky and Berezovsky. Did Trotsky, who undoubtedly passionately desired to see Stalin removed, really not understand that the overthrow of Stalin’s Communist regime would put him, along with all the other “Old Bolsheviks,” in the dock, where they would have to answer, not just for fictitious crimes dreamed up by Stalin, but for the entirely real crimes against humanity that were committed in the course of the civil war they unleashed on Russia?

At my instigation, a call has been inserted in the program of the Yabloko Party for the “removal from power of the Putin regime by all possible constitutional means.” We will attempt to do this for many reasons, not least to enable a trial to take place in Russia of all those guilty of organizing the series of outrages which led to the second Chechen war: Chechen warlord Shamil Basaev’s raid on Dagestan, the blowing up of apartment blocks (with their occupants) in Moscow and Volgodonsk, FSB “exercises” in the basement of an apartment block in Ryazan, among many others.

Once he was in emigration, Berezovsky began claiming, and clearly knew what he was talking about, that these explosions were the work not of Chechens but of the Russian authorities. In the process, he omitted to mention who was effectively ruling Russia in the autumn of 1999. The highest authority in the land was the team in charge of “Operation Successor,” (Berezovsky, Voloshin, Yumashev, Diachenko) who were acting on behalf of an incapable President Boris Yeltsin. By means of the incursion of Basaev and Hattab in Dagestan, the blowing up of apartments in Russian cities, and the destructive war in Chechnya, they and their television hit men ushered into the presidency a certain Vladimir Putin. At the time, Putin was totally unknown and unable to take any independent decisions. Their aim was to avert a takeover of the Kremlin by the rival clan of Luzhkov and Primakov, which threatened their business interests.

The shameful secret of how the Putin regime was conceived binds Putin and Berezovsky together with a single chain. It seems strange that they fail to understand this. Or perhaps they know it full well, and that is why they pass the ball to each other so deftly.

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